Are you keeping up with the times?
Most of us kept some sort of diary growing up where we put our secrets. Maybe it looked like a diary, or maybe one tried to fool family and hide her most precious secret thoughts on a pad of paper or a notebook that looked like homework assignments. Or maybe one even sent secret thoughts and feelings to a best girlfriend, via the post.
But I BET you never threw your secrets thoughts out into the media! Most of us couldn't as the technology didn't exist. Unless you were into science fiction, we just accepted that a diary was private and personal messages got mailed or handed to a best friend. No worries needed.
Today, of course, is a WHOLE different ballgame. ANYONE can put private information on a public forum. As scary as it sounds, a 12-year-old can send her most secret thoughts, her address, a phone number, or a compromised picture of herself to any of THOUSANDS of sites.
How will her parents know?
As we wring our hands, we realize that most of us 'grown-ups' don't realize that it isn't just about Facebook anymore. Our tweens and teens can keep up with ALL the newfangled technology — and that's the problem. THEY know the apps that we've NEVER heard of. And — as noted in an ABC special "Good Morning America" roundtable segment What kids don’t want their parents to know about their cellphones — they USE them.
Kids even admitted to using apps that appear to be one thing (like, say, a calculator) but behind the facade is a way to hide and send private photos.
Let's bring it back home to our tweens and teens. How can we better monitor what they are doing?
Here are a couple of ways to make sure you're keeping your kids safe (but not driving them to get BETTER at hiding):
1. Encourage honesty by being honest YOURSELF.
Be honest with your kids about how dangerous it can be if an unhealthy person starts a relationship (whether it be romantic or not) online. With teens throwing their selfies and confessions out there for the world to see, it's important to make them realize the real-world dangers of that practice. Be real with them and connect with them on a level that they'll understand.
2. Explain the risk to their future happiness (and career).
Help your kids understand that they may NOT feel the same way in five years about the selfies they post now. Discuss what could happen when they graduate or try to start a serious career or internship. Their posts now will continue on with them for the rest of their lives, so help them realize that being responsible (and SAFE) with their posts is key.
3. Monitor ALL the apps on her phone and know how they work.
Ask to see what sites, apps and social media platforms they regularly use. You are the parent — you're allowed to know. You wouldn't just let them take a bus into a town without telling you where they were going, so stay just as insistent with knowing about their phone and internet use.
They may not tell you EVERYTHING, but an informed and interested parent is harder to hide from than someone who seems indifferent.
Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein is a Positive Psychologist and author of The Truth, Diary of a Gutsy Teen. You can learn more about her work with teenage girls on her website or follow her popular YouTube channel on girls, teens and tweens to learn more about how to help your daughter today.